Loussier studied music at the Paris Conservatoire, and in 1959 formed his Trio with Christian Garros on drums and Pierre Michelot on bass. The following year they began a series of albums based on compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach, which were marketed as jazz. A cross-over genre between classical music and jazz was far from a new concept, as witness for example Eddie Lang's guitar transcription of the Rachmaninoff Prelude Opus 3 No. 2, or Jelly Roll Morton's transformation of "La Miserere" from "Il Travatore". Such recordings were usually isolated examples, which respected the original intention, but Loussier applied his formula to Bach's works with unremitting zeal, and scant regard for the original score. His novelty approach aroused some criticism from both camps, but it was popular with the general public, and a version of "Air on the G String" became the theme for a long-running series of cigar adverts on British TV.
I was looking forward to hearing whether these recordings had withstood the test of time, but listening again my reaction was one of disappointment. Having carved out his niche, Loussier deserves to be compared with legitimate interpreters of Bach, and exponents of the jazz piano, but on either count I find him wanting. Furthermore, the addition of a rhythm section to Bach's wonderful contrapuntal compositions seems quite superfluous, and undermines the effect they were intended to create. The Bach approach seems to have been retained deliberately for the Kurt Weill album. Overall, the end result is a curious hybrid, which is neither fish nor fowl. That said, I suspect that my view will be in a minority and that Loussier's many fans will grab the chance to replace their worn vinyl with this generous new compilation.
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